Words by Ray
I gave birth to my second child slumped over the side of the birth pool in what was not dissimilar to an all fours position, I roared my baby out with such gusto that I had a sore throat for two days afterwards. I was already a Hynobirthing teacher when I gave birth to Gus and had surrounded myself with calm input around the subject. I’ll be honest, while I didn't believe all women breathed their baby’s out calmly and in control - I truly believed I would. So it came as quite a shock when my birth looked so different to some of the videos I had been watching on YouTube. But the noises were 100% right for me. It felt like the sensations were traveling from my womb to my mouth and then out into the atmosphere. Pure instinct had taken over my body.
And yet, even though my job is to help women and their chosen birth partners prepare for birth, I struggle at times to really communicate this aspect of birth. I fear I will frighten the mothers I work with. Not just first time mothers but second and third time mothers too and especially those who are hoping for a drug free birth. And the weird thing is that what we are trying to communicate is not frightening in itself; it’s not really about pain (although that can be element of it), it’s not about blood or being scared. But it is about something that has become so far removed from our normal everyday way of being women that it can shock us when it happens during birth. And that is simply that, when we give birth unhindered the experience can be very primal. We can suddenly be aware that we are mammals and birthing can become a very animalistic experience.
Communicating to mothers this part of birth is hard because we are suggesting that you will be doing something that is a long way removed from how women are asked to be by the world around them. We are supposed to be gentle, modest, not too loud, attractive at every turn. They make birthing outfits FFS! Because what matters at that moment is that we look pretty. In essence we should always look pretty! So to experience our bodies taking over, to growl on all fours whilst naked, to poo in labour (something very common yet not talked about) is culturally something that is thought of as seriously unladylike. And yet in that moment I would argue that what we are doing is incredibly beautiful. We are tapping into the same primal mamailian instinct that millions of women have tapped into before us. We are our strongest, our most profound womanly selves, the ultimate lady.
So much of womanhood has been sanitised. We use tampons so that we don’t have to see or deal with too much of our menstrual blood, so that we can hide it away as much as possible. Few things are more mortifying than leaking while your on your period right? What if someone should see that you are bleeding like every other menstruating woman does on the planet every month?? What then?? To be successfully female we need to not only have periods but to successfully hide that fact too. We still live in a world where a woman farting is pretty unacceptable, never mind the pooing! I mean I’m not saying we need to march for that right but you see my point? Women have bodily functions too, what a shocker!
When we give birth we are doing one of the most feminine acts in existence and yet we can feel embarrassed and shocked by our actions because no one told us it might look that way, because no one wanted to admit that they looked that way. Birth workers and some mums too will recognise those noises and positions, they tell us that a woman is entering her zone, accessing her instinct and that her baby will be with her very soon. They are a normal part of birth and are something to be celebrated and they are certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes as birth educators we can focus too much on the magic of birth. On the beautiful love hormones that leave you tingling and the stylised videos of quieter births (I know I’ve been guilty of that) but when we focus on that exclusively we neglect to prepare women for entering her birthing self, for accessing her amazing birth warrior, the part of her that will truly transform her into a mother. She may be a quiet warrior or she may roar like I did, she may be somewhere in between but however she expresses herself as long as she feels free to do that, no mistakes have been made, no shortcomings have occured. It’s normal, and I wish more of us talked about it. She has birthed on her own terms and she is as womanly, glamourous and dignified as any one woman can be. She deserves a culture that will listen to her, hear her roars and grunts, and respect the mighty, mighty thing she has achieved.